Wednesday 30 September 2015

Strong Delusion by TJ Allen

Strong Delusion

The book revolves around two separate missions to the planet Mars roughly 75 to 100 years into the future. The time is some time after the western world has gone through a major war and is left partially decimated by that war (Evangelical War) and plagues. The technological advancements one would expect with time were stunted due to the war and plagues. There are two missions because not enough people could be transported by one vehicle. However, they have one commander and live in the same station. The mission is funded primarily by private funds though manned by military personnel. On Mars, several of the team members see what they call angels or demons. Two of the crew profess to be Christians and are the only ones who can see “flaming men” at first.

One Christian, Jeremy is constantly quoting scripture, yet he is not living what he professes. He dabbles in paranormal psychology and conforms a lot to the spiritual fad and peer pressure of the day. The other Christian, known by his last name, Hernandez, started out quiet then begins to realize that they could be living close to the last days of human existence before the coming of Christ. He becomes more verbal as he realizes that he has not been true to his faith and beliefs. The more embolden he becomes, the more hostile some of the crew members become. Both are children of Godly families, but both handle the strange happenings on Mars differently.

The commander of the mission Colonel Quirinus goes through a transformation that brings on what he calls his mission and his destiny that needs to be fulfilled. “Enlightened” to this new truth, he returns to earth and as his new power and intellect is revealed, he is heralded as the latest Messiah. Scripture would recognize him as the antichrist.

The history of the “City Square” and other “conspiracies” around life on Mars are discussed as well as some theories of previous life on Mars from a “biblical” standpoint. The team goes through a series of demonic attacks. However, angels are also present in their lives. The overall theme of the book is to explore a possibility of how the Anti-Christ if he were to get his power from Mars, would get such power and how it would be used. It further explores how the Rapture of the Church can be explained away as an alien phenomenon. Though the story is purely fictional; woven in the story is scriptural truths. Some of the arguments dealt with are akin to those that Christians have faced or will face in their lives.

This book is a parallel story to other books that I have written or are working on. These books form an ongoing story from different angles. This is the first of several.

The Guru's Review:

I was asked by the author to review his debut novel pre-release. I am very glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed Strong Delusion. It is a gripping tale combining the genres of science fiction, fantasy, eschatological fiction with the supernatural, demon possession, spiritual warfare, angels, and demons.

As is common in the fantasy and science fiction genres, there needs to be world building or modification of existing worlds to suit the plot and/or themes the author wants to explore. Similarly, it may be necessary as well to provide a prologue that gives some history or back story that supports this world building and themes and contribute to the realism and credibility of the story. Allen does both in this novel. The prologue provides essential information on the spiritual side of this novel as well as providing a brief backstory as to why this mission to Mars was planned. Allen also explains more of this spiritual history in an early chapter and this is suitably placed to add further depth and credibility to the world building. The description of the physical world building is not a new one, as Mars exists, including some of its structures, such as the Face, the D&M pyramid, the City, Tholos, all of which is collectively known as the Cydonia Mensae or Cydonia for short, but he has added a few creative elements to Cydonia that support his alien/supernatural themes and plot lines that contribute to the plausibility of these. Allen has used this as a convincing backdrop for his plot to be further developed.

It is from this that that Allen sets the scene right from the first chapter that keep you reading. I found this very encouraging seeing there was going to be many topics, twists and turns covered (from reading the book description). This is where some authors introduce too much too soon and the reader gets frustrated and struggles to keep pace and join the dots as the author intended, but not so with this novel. Having this first chapter open with a scene that is instantly intriguing and mysterious and not what you are expecting grabs your attention and makes you turn the page and keep turning. You are instantly in this story and the pace and timing of events flows well keeping you absorbed in the events.

Allen wastes no time explaining what the Mars mission is all about, introduces the characters, their rank, the teams, some of their personal history, and who the two Christians (New Order Believers) are, the description of their headquarters/base and technology and then lays the foundation for the supernatural, edgy, speculative themes that pervade the rest of the novel. Once Jeremy and Dianna discover what is underneath the pyramid the plot really takes off and the entire crew is no longer searching for rock samples and primitive forms of life.

It is here that the pace quickens and the character's lives are turned upside down, the reader is not aware of their surroundings and where Allen comes into his own as an author. The rest of this novel is the culmination of his writing mission, where his love of science fiction blends well with him being a Christian and his love for end time prophecy and the supernatural influenced by Billy Graham, Jerry B Jenkins, Tim Lahaye, Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker.

From this point on, I became much more engrossed in this novel as Allen introduced these edgy, speculative themes of alien/demonic beings, their attacks on the crew, and the possession of their commander and another crew member and the reason these demonic beings have revealed themselves in relation to the future of the earth and mankind. Allen uses this backdrop to introduce the biblical worldview to explain their occurrences and what their motives are and this becomes the springboard for the Gospel to be presented to the crew by Hernandez. Allen presents this very well, without it standing out from the plot as preachy or in excess where it frustrates the reader and becomes counterproductive. Instead, Allen has integrated the Gospel and the Bible's eschatological answers to support the plot, shows the spiritual deficit of the characters and their need for God in response to this alien/demonic gospel being presented to them and mankind. I applaud Allen for presenting the Gospel as it is, holding nothing back and showing through the character of Hernandez, the power of the Gospel and not to be ashamed of it, despite being ridiculed and attacked by one of the demonic beings and members of his crew.

There is one very important message Allen expounds in this novel between the two Christian members of the crew. Once Hernandez realises who and what these aliens beings are and what their agenda is, he becomes sold out for the Gospel and does not compromise it in relation to these demonic attacks and their deceptive gospel or the ridicule and humiliation from other crew members. He becomes an evangelist to the crew, explaining the Gospel to the crew in relation to who these aliens are and what they are doing, even resulting in the conversion of one of them. The other Christian, Jeremy Johnson, is the opposite. He believes in God only in his head and not his heart, and has allowed himself to dabble in other paranormal activities, and so compromising himself and his faith. It is no surprise then, that when the Rapture occurs, he is beyond remorse and regret as he realises too late that he has compromised himself despite his strong upbringing in the Word by his grandfather and the warning of an angel that he needs to choose who he believes as he does not have much time to do so. Such a sobering account of what lies ahead for Christians who profess to have a relationship with Christ, but spiritually and in reality, they do not, and suffer the eternal consequences. Again, I applaud Allen for including this spiritual reality as this is important and essential in the study of end times (eschatology) from a biblical worldview.

I have said this in many previous Christian novels, that I believe Christian fiction should entertain, edify and educate the reader, whether Christian or not. For the Christian, it should edify or strengthen their relationship with Christ, while entertaining and educating them in that particular theme of the novel; for those who don't believe, it should point them to Christ and offer them His eternal hope, or encourage them to consider Christ and His Gospel as much as they allow this to happen. For me, Allen has done this well. If he continues to maintain the standard he set in the novel in the remainder of his writings then he will be an author to follow knowing the reader will be entertained, edified and educated.

I understand from the author's website that Allen has spent 3 years researching for this novel and I can see much evidence of this. This very much adds credibility to Allen as an author and expounding the themes of this novel in order to not just entertain but edify and educate. His website also contains a lot of other information and resources to back up everything he has depicted in this novel and it is not such a bad idea to check this out as this novel is being read. It is good, for example, to see the photos of the structures that make up Cydonia that I mentioned previously.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. For his debut, Allen has created a well researched, well laid out novel that I believe he achieves what he set out to if by reading the resources in his website is any indication. I look forward to the next book in this series.

Highly Recommended.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Beast by Mark Carver and Michael Anatra


MFEC-19, aka "The Beast," is an offshore oil platform behemoth in the Pacific Northwest. Kyle Hamilton, an experienced derrickhand who has survived a brush with death, is its newest resident. Forced back into the drilling world to pay for his wife's cancer treatment, Kyle is thrilled and terrified to be part of the team that keeps the monster in check.

But the Beast bows to no man.

One slip, one mistake, and hell breaks loose above the storm-swept water. Kyle and his crew find themselves in the fiery jaws of death as the Beast thrashes itself apart, unleashing an industrial cataclysm unlike anything the world has ever seen. Using his quick wits, hoping for good luck, and praying for a miracle, Kyle tries desperately to save himself and those around him, but the will to survive comes with heavy costs.

And the Beast will show no mercy.

The Guru's Review: 

I received an advanced reader's copy of this latest work from Mark Carver at my request.

This is only the second book I have read of his and I must say, I am very impressed with this latest offering. This book is very different to Carver's other works notably the Apollyon Trilogy which is very dark, supernatural and very edgy Christian speculative based.

The reader will hit the road running in this novel. Carver grabs your attention and does not let go. The action starts with the main character, Kyle Hamilton, working on an oil rig when something explodes and he is injured. Then the plot shifts to him being rehabilitated from his injuries 9 months later and returning to work as a derrickhand on a new state of the art rig, MFEC-19, nicknamed Beast, named due to its massive size, 
MFEC-19 was the largest semi-submersible rig in the world. By far. With 6,000 horsepower and the capability of drilling extended-reach wells over 60,000 feet - 20,000 feet deeper that its closest competitor - it was the largest of its kind.
Carver has structured this novel with Kyle as main character and the story revolving around him. Through the various plot lines involving Kyle, Carver describes what an oil rig does, specifically how the Beast differs from others and how it works in sufficient detail so as to not lose the reader. This side of it is very interesting reading and works well being interspersed throughout the novel in response to various events where an explanation is required.  

One of the successes for me in this novel is the character development, especially of the members of Kyle's crew. I can see that this has been portrayed as based on what oil rig employees are like as the success of this novel depends on it being depicted as it is in real life. When Kyle introduces himself to these members, the readers discovers the crew dynamics, who the dominant ones are, who are the dysfunctional ones etc. This dynamic is done very well and you can feel the suspicion, the hostility, the wariness of some of them toward Kyle and even for Kyle as he realises that as the new kid on the block, he has to tread carefully, and slowly edge his way into the team and win them over in accepting him. 

However, the Beast has other plans for him. When things start to go pear shaped it is Kyle's training, past experience and leadership qualities that kick in and force this issue. It is interesting from this point on how the crew dynamics are tested and fall apart as it becomes each man for himself to survive this holocaust. However, Kyle does not subscribe to this instinct in its entirety and helps those along the way. It is due to this that he teams up with Oscar and others but in the end, it turns out to be just the two of them. Kyle has another motivation to survive; he needs this job to pay for his wife's cancer treatment. This becomes forefront in his mind during the ordeal as the Beast undergoes further breakdown threatening all human life. Apart from his survival instinct, Kyle keeps saying to himself, 
Get home to your girls.
Having this interspersed throughout the novel in strategic times, usually when he is thrust into another close to being killed situation, adds to the roller coaster ride that this novel has now developed into. Again, Carver has created the environment of this disaster with enough adrenaline to cause the strongest reader to become anxious, breathless and almost sweating in anticipation of what is to happen next. I found myself thinking, will Kyle and Oscar survive? I egged them on totally engrossed and engaged and in the process nearly missed my lunch break finish time and my train destination. I kept thinking was the next paragraph going to describe the last explosion that puts the Beast out of its misery and allows the ocean to claim another victory over man's attempt at dominating it?

Carver is very successful at transporting the reader to this rig and its environment. I felt that I was on this rig with Kyle, experienced what he felt, his anxiety, his fear, his survival instinct and determination to make it out to be with his family again. I could smell the burning oil, and feel the intense heat. I felt for Kyle and Oscar as the faced insurmountable odds in trying to keep at least one step ahead of this catastrophe that was determined to claim them. I shamefully admit that I was glad that one character's demise turned out the way it did as he was depicted as being quite a dysfunctional character after a major event in this life years ago and he remained on a downward spiral with negative effects on all Kyle's crew and contributed to this catastrophe. 

One thing I must comment on is the successful team that Carver and Anatra make. Michael Anatra is not an author, but has worked in oilfields since he was in high school and now oversees the day to day maintenance operations of forty-seven rigs worldwide. Quite an impressive career and success in this field and more than qualified to contribute to the content of this novel. Carver states that he has not met Anatra in person; their only communication being via email! Based on this collaboration, readers can expect the detail and realism that is in this novel to be of a high degree and makes it all the more realistic and believable. I feel, Anatra would have contributed to the type of characters in this novel and their expression of cuss words, crude sayings and banter that these men express towards each other which is typical of this breed of employee. I can relate to this as I have worked in an abattoir and these rig workers are very similar to these abattoir workers, the most rugged, down to earth, toughest, and where necessary, the most violent, foul-mouthed, arrogant men yet who also have the most kindest and loyal hearts when they need to. 

Spiritually, this novel shines towards the end when this disastrous, life threatening situation causes Oscar to re-evaluate his life and confront his regrets specifically the fractured relationship he has with his daughter. Kyle, by his Christian witness to Oscar throughout the novel provides very appropriate God given counsel and this provokes Oscar into considering that if he gets out of this holocaust, he would seek our his daughter and restore their relationship. In the process, God wins out in more ways than one as Oscar does more than just restore his relationship with his daughter. It really does end this story well. It would need to as this roller coaster ride has to end and what better way than this with all loose ends tied up in one satisfying package?

Highly Recommended.

Sunday 20 September 2015

The Book of Daniel by Mat Ridley

The Book of Daniel

Daniel Stein is having the worst day of his life. The last day of his life, in fact. And things are only going to get worse for him tomorrow.

Death is only the beginning for Dan. Waking up to find that his wife, Joanna, has also been killed is bad enough, but then Dan also finds a sword shoved into his hand, and is told that the only way he's ever going to get to Jo—and Heaven—is if he does as God tells him and fights against the forces of Satan's army.

But demons are the least of Dan's problems in the afterlife. There's also his hatred of God to contend with.

And Dan is pretty sure that God hates him right back.

Welcome to Purgatory.

The Guru's Review: 

I won this novel through a Goodreads Competition. I was drawn to the plot description, but I had no idea it was literally about Purgatory despite the mention of this in the description. I did not interpret that it would literally be about Purgatory! As a winner of a Goodreads competition, you are encouraged to review your winnings as not doing so can contribute to you not being eligible for further Goodreads competitions. So read it I did. 

Ridley seems to be quite a natural at the command of the English language and syntax (grammar, sentence structure, spelling). I find this forms a great framework to build this novel with its characters, plot and theology and is one very well constructed novel. 

Ridley has structured this novel in a sequence that flows well. The reader starts off with the present and the events leading up to Daniel's death, then his past recounts him as a teenager meeting his future wife, Jo, his Christian upbringing, parental disharmony, their separation and mother's crime leading to her incarceration and subsequent suicide, all of which destroys his faith in God, distorting his journey to adulthood, his attempts at improving his life in spite of his destructive and toxic upbringing, his blossoming relationship with Jo leading back to the present and his death and then finding himself in the afterlife, or purgatory as described in this novel. This part of the novel needed to be sequenced well to avoid disjointedness that would affect the second half that deals with his "life" in the afterworld/purgatory.

Despite enjoying this book purely from it being very entertaining, I must confess that I had a sense that something was not quite right about this book. Was it the subject of purgatory that goes against my Christian beliefs and biblical doctrine? I guess it was, but if there would be one questionable topic in this novel, there would most likely be another or even more. Well, I had only to keep reading and I discovered this to be so. The author, through the character of Saint Peter, says this of the Bible, 
The Bible as you know it is an interesting book. Many people maintain that it is the literal word of God, and the infallible truth, the key to eternal life. That was certainly the intention of God and those first few authors that spread His word. However, as with many noble endeavours, the problem of corruption arose as more people got involved. Some of the corruption was unintentional; a scribe's mind would wander when copying a particular passage and words would get left out, or a poorly educated scholar would pick the wrong work when trying to translate scripture into another language. Other kinds of corruption were deliberate; politically motivated alterations made in the interests of uniting certain groups of people or turning them against one another. Over the thousands of years that have passed since the original texts were written, so many changes have been introduced that it is impossible for any mortal to know which parts of the Bible are God's truth and which parts are man's fiction. 
Well, at this point, I nearly gave up and I was angered by this. This author seems to have deliberately ignored the verse, 
2 Timothy 3:16

Every Scripture passage is inspired by God. All of them are useful for teaching, pointing out errors, correcting people, and training them for a life that has God’s approval.
and John 1:1
In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
I then thought that this would be expected if this author was not a Christian. On his website and bio, he does not admit to such, but in the Acknowledgements in the book, he states,
To God, for the inspiration and opportunity to write the novel in the
first place....
This is the only reference or hint that this author has some degree of relationship with God. That is encouraging! However, I have a problem with this. God inspired him to write that the Bible is corrupted? Despite the Bible saying that it is inspired by God? Is this verse corrupted as well? So God has contradicted Himself? The God of the Bible that I know is one who is perfect, holy, consistent, incorruptible and is the very Word of God. If all the former statements from the author are true, then why bother with it? As the author has Saint Peter say, is impossible for any mortal to know which parts of the Bible are God's truth and which parts are man's fiction.

Yes, I know every author uses poetic licence for all the reasons they do, and I 
welcome that in fiction, but when it distorts bible doctrine, the Bible itself, who God is, then this is where the author and I part company. I fail to see how even in fiction, an author who hints at being Christian can portray the very tenets of his faith and of the things of God as the opposite to what they are and what he is supposed to believe. It even puts his own faith in question. In all things, there are boundaries. In Christian fiction, poetic licence should not detract from known facts or the Bible, it can enhance them without distorting its original meaning or intent or from who God is. It shines best when it fills in the gaps between facts without, again, distorting or detracting from the original fact, meaning, intent or person.

There are many more of these distortions and detractions concerning the bible 
and who God is. Too long this review would be if I quoted them here but, suffice to say, I found it very disconcerting and disappointing to say the least. Another main is that that everyone goes to this place of purgatory to deal with their issues from their earthly life as God wants everyone to have a second chance to spend eternity with Him but, if they do not sort these issues out while in purgatory, then they go to Hell. He even goes to say that God, 
....still hopes that one day even Satan will see the error of his ways. 
Hmm, wasn't that what Hell was created for? Satan and the fallen angels? The bible is clear that salvation and forgiveness are for His human creations only and that Hell was specifically for satan and his angels. 

What concerns me about all these distortions and distractions is that if this type of fiction only reinforces the belief in those who do not believe the Word of God is inspired by God and that you don't go to Heaven or Hell when you die, but go to Purgatory first or the twist at the end of the novel concerning it. These and the others that I have not mentioned here are not backed up biblically or even based on the bible but, this author believes that everything in this novel is inspired by God. If that is so, then I have been following the wrong inspired book by God, the Bible, and a God who contradicts Himself in each book. 

Just when I thought I had had enough of Ridley's theology/gospel, he throws in a twist at the end, all that has been up to that point is not so but again, it is not based on the bible and is a distortion of bible doctrine and who God is.

I state in my blog that I expect from Christian fiction,

Generally, I hope at the end of the novel:
  • it has entertained me immensely, 
  • it has encouraged my walk with God, 
  • it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non-believer astray or promote false doctrine, 
  • it honours God, 
  • it does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God). 

If it includes a topic that the bible is silent on, I don't get too concerned as long as it: 

  • does not conflict with or undermine the bible or doctrine, 
  • does not dishonour God 
  • does not have the potential to give the reader a misleading impression of what God and Christianity is. 
  • generally meets the expectations mentioned previously 

If it does, then this will show in my review.
This novel has only met one of the above criteria, it entertained me, however, I would not say immensely. Unfortunately, it has not encouraged my walk or relationship with God, it deviates from known bible doctrine and I don't believe it honours God. The bible is silent on Purgatory solely because it does not exist but the inclusion in this novel of this concept and the twist concerning it at the end, does conflict with the Bible and its doctrine and I believe will give a reader who is searching for God a misleading impression of who God is. 

This novel is very much the gospel according to Ridley. 

I cannot give this an overall rating but will do so as follows: 

Spiritual themes 1/5

Plot 4/5

Characterisation 4/5

Construction 5/5 

Wednesday 9 September 2015

One Nation Under gods (Abbaddon's Sword, Book 1) by Grace Walton

One Nation Under gods (Sword of Abbaddon Book 1)

From bestselling Inspirational Romance Author- Grace Walton. Book One in her new Swords of Abbaddon series- One Nation Under gods, a Dystopian Inspirational Romance. 

This is a novel of what ifs. What if, through the centuries, the Christian religion remained a small house church movement? What if it never became a mainstream faith? What if the Bible had never been gathered together from the many and disparate scrolls of wisdom existing to encourage and nourish those first few early Christians? What if one repentant, forgiven Nephilim/Half-Breed Angel family remained? One family so committed to Christ, they dedicated a man in every generation to serve God in a most horrifying and sacrificial way? What if?

Half-Breed Angel Salem D’Angelis has his life all planned. He’ll run the family’s vast Texas ranch. He’ll marry a local girl. He’ll start a family. He’ll escape his family’s celestial curse and live an ordinary quiet life. Then it appears - the supernatural summons marking him as the Sword of Abbaddon. Now without flinching, he’ll use his preternatural skills and gifts to be God’s Destroyer.

Lily Meade comes from small-town Pagan royalty. Her grandfather is the High Priest of the Pantheon Church of beachside Providence Point, Texas. Her Nana is the church’s hereditary Oracle. Lily will inherit that position if she completes her one-day service as a Temple Servant. But how can she be a prostitute, even a holy one, for 24 long hours? 

Their lives collide one hot summer night. She’s running away. He’s stoically facing his destiny. Salem knows his life is almost at an end. Lily thinks hers is just beginning. The only things standing between them and ultimate destruction are ten righteous people and one tattered scrap of Holy Script. 

Love is powerful and often used as a weapon. But can it or any puny human effort, ever truly stay the Sword of Abbaddon? 

The Guru's Review:

When I saw this book on the Free Read Feed site (free kindle books), I had some reservations about downloading this to read. You see, it contains one of my favourite topics, the Nephilim, and a genre I am not so fussed on reading, Romance! The last thing I wanted was for this book to be yet another of the myriad of paranormal romances between angels and humans, even from Christian authors! Yet what helped convince me was two things, there were very edgy speculative elements in the plot and Amazon classified this as Religious & Inspirational Fiction > Science Fiction & Fantasy and not paranormal romance. Christian science fiction and fantasy are some of the genres I review and I love novels that contain edgy, speculative elements. Seeing it was free, I considered I had nothing to loose.

I do, however, know that an author makes a book free to increase the book's exposure, including promotion by word of mouth, and hopefully get some sales and reviews in the process. So writing a review would not be an issue for me as I review every book I read.

The edgy, speculative elements in this novel I found very intriguing and wanted to see how this author would blend bible truth, doctrine, Christian romance, the redemption of the Nephilim (on its own one very edgy, speculative and controversial topic!), spiritual warfare, demonic possession, demonic curses and enchantments without compromising the Gospel. Sounds like a very complex and challenging feat for any author! I must say that after reading this novel, I can quite honestly say Walton has successfully achieved this. All the above elements are blended in seamlessly into the world building that she has created. I am not a romance reader, but I do enjoy the inclusion of romance if it is not the dominant topic of the novel but is part of the many other elements/topics or plot lines. In this novel, such is the case. I really enjoyed the romance between Lily and Salem, and it seems Walton excels in this area (of romance) as she has achieved this in her previous novels, not that I have read them, but the reviews say so!

I loved the supernatural elements between Salem's lineage and Lily's. A violent clash between good versus evil, the angelic versus the demonic, the Omnipotent versus demonic power, God's Word versus a demonic counterfeit gospel. All this created an increasing level of suspense and tension throughout the entire plot, especially between the developing relationship of Lily and Salem, the fulfillment of the special mission from God that He has bestowed on the D'Angelis family, and the evil taking over Lily's grandmother. 

I was impressed that Walton is not afraid to present the Gospel in this novel. It needed to be in order for Lily to know the truth and decide to accept Jesus and for any reader who is a non-believer to be exposed to this too. I guess also, that because Lily grew up in a pagan/demonic cult and is very disillusioned in it, then it makes sense for her to know the truth behind this pagan way belief system and this truth can only lead to Christ. I must say though that the Gospel elements are not preachy, not contained in only one conversation or single part of the plot but is interspersed throughout as we see Lily learn about God, His Word, repentance, forgiveness, salvation, mercy and Christian/Biblical living leading to her conversion. 

Walton has depicted the sexual promiscuity of thought and behaviour typical of pagan/satanic worship and it is not just hinted or mentioned but is slightly graphic in speech and innuendo especially as part of the attitude of Venus who is a product of this pagan cult and her dislike of it. At first I was a bit annoyed at this, but then realised Walton is only depicting how people would act in an environment where many cults co-exist with their lack of sexual morality and where Christianity is the extreme minority. I was glad that this was so and not the attitude of this Christian author. As far as Venus is concerned, this depiction of her being a product of the pagan cult dominant in sexual promiscuity, showed the spiritual deficit and sense of hopelessness that she felt and it was this that led her to finally realise that it is the God that Salem and Lily follow that she needs.

What I found interesting was the specific speculative elements relating to the background of the spiritual mission that God had bestowed on the D'Angelis family. Here God had chosen the D'Angelis lineage as Nephilim to be granted forgiveness and salvation and for a male member or each generation to be the Sword of Abbaddon who would be used by God to eradicate that current city if this appointed Sword could not find an unpublished piece of Holy Script and 10 Christians (Christians are in an extreme minority in the culture depicted in this novel). If so, then God would spare this city and apocalypse would be avoided. Once Salem accepts and dedicates himself to the role of Sword of Abbaddon, repents from his life of sin, deepens and furthers his relationship with God, that forms the springboard for the Gospel to be presented to Lily and for him to show the Love of Christ to her and live out the Gospel in his life. I really enjoyed this and I applaud Walton for portraying this in a Christian character that could also be seen as an ideal Christian male role model. It was great having Salem's brothers be part of the plot towards the end with their different spiritual powers and them being a band of brothers to rescue Lily as assist in Salem's mission as the Sword of Abbaddon. 

Another area where Walton shines is plot development and how the various plot lines are tightly interwoven and interconnected. This makes the plot flow very smoothly and contributes greatly to the building of suspense and intrigue. No wonder myself and other readers say this is one book that you cannot put down. 

Walton ties all the main plot lines together very nicely for those concerning Salem, Lily, and all the support characters and leaves the reader with a plot line open for the continuation of this series, this next one being about Salem's younger brother, Rome. 

I am really looking forward to the remaining two novels in this series. Walton states on her website that this novel is her first foray into the speculative Christian fiction genre and she does this very well and I say this as one who reviews in the majority of this genre. She has proven from this novel that she is quite a natural at it. I would love to see Walton explore this genre more once she has finished with this series. 

Highly Recommended.

Sunday 6 September 2015

Light Brigade by Peter J. Tomasi (Author) and Peter Snejbjerg (Illustrator)

Still reeling from the horrors of World War II, Chris Stavros-an American soldier-has one goal: getting home safely to care for his son after learning his wife has died. But in the midst of battle and trying to stay alive, he finds the stakes raised, as heavenly warriors emerge from the skies-and an impossible task is given to Stavros's platoon: recover the lost Sword of God before a troop of arcane, unkillable German soldiers locate it and storm heaven's gate! These American soldiers, this "Light Brigade," will begin a supernatural crusade that will determine the fate of the world... one bullet and one soul at a time! 

The Guru's Review: 

If you think the cover looks like a comic, you would be correct. Graphic novel to be exact, although that is just the modern name for what I grew up as a comic. I had this graphic novel on my wishlist with Amazon for more than 5 years, did a random check on it yesterday, and was pleased to see that it had been converted to the kindle format. I wanted this as it deals with the genres I love, the Nephilim, supernatural, spiritual warfare, military, angels and demons. The 4-5 star reviews were another drawcard.

Despite its 224 pages, this only took about an hour to read as the graphics take up the majority of the page space. I am really glad I was able to buy this now, as this was one great story. 

This would be the second WWII story I have read and also the second one that deals with the occult and the supernatural in this same war. The previous one was The Fist of God (The Agarthi Conspiracy) (Volume 1) by M. E Brines. 

Set against a WWII backdrop in Belgium towards the end of this war, this story is composed entirely of the supernatural. This composition has the last of the Gregori, (angels charged by God with watching over the human race) and the Nephilim, (the offspring of the sexual union of the Grigori with human women,) two warring angels, an immortal Roman centurion, Marcus Longinus, (who pierced the side of Christ while He hung on the Cross), supernaturally powered artifacts from the Crucifixion, the eternal flame of Christ's Cross, the Monks who have guarded these relics for centuries, a supernaturally powered sword, and a supernatural baptism the US soldiers have to enable them to fight the remaining Grigori and the Nephilim in preventing them from exacting revenge against God for wiping out their race in the biblical flood. 

All these elements fit really well in the conflict of the German and American armies as they meet in Belgium, the German army with a hidden agenda and the American army none the wiser, except for one member of this army. 

Tomasi provides a brief history of the Grigori and the Nephilim, and the biblical flood that nearly wiped them out. From this it reveals the origin of the revenge of this last Grigori, who is transformed into human form as Colonel Zephon, of the German Army. This backstory provides much-needed depth and suspense to the supernatural aspects of this story and acts as a cohesive bond to the plot.

Another aspect of this cohesive bond is the character of Marcus Loginus, the Roman Centurion who has been charged by God to do a special mission involving the Grigori then he will go to be with the Lord. So in the German army we have the last Grigori, in the guise of Colonel Zephon and in the US army we have Marcus in the guise of  soldier Mark. 
Tomasi also provides the history of Longinus that led to this special mission that culminates at the end of the story. In effect, we have then two supernatural leaders of opposing forces, one good, one bad, leading to a final explosive end. 

Tomasi brings all the supernatural elements together for one fast paced, good versus evil battle using supernatural and physical warfare, with an increasing toll of life as a result but a very satisfying end all round.

Tomasi's story and the artwork of Snejbjerg make this one very enjoyable read and an entertaining education in the history of fallen angels and spiritual warfare.

I would love to have seen this also made into a full-length novel as I feel the back stories and more of the plot and characters, especially those of the American army, would benefit from more depth and fleshing out. But maybe I say that because I am not a graphic novel lover. However, I am still very glad I read this graphic novel, it adds a nice element to my collection of novels in this genre. 

Strongly recommended.

Friday 4 September 2015

Interview with Peter Way

My first introduction to the author I am interviewing today occurred when his debut novel, The Eden Conflict (God's Warriors Book 1), was free on Amazon. I was drawn to the plot and that it covered several of the genres I love to read, fantasy, spiritual warfare, angels and demons all under another genre of edgy, Christian, speculative fiction.

In my review of this book, I stated, 
One thrilling tale packed with action, suspense, the supernatural, the angelic, the demonic, deception, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, His sovereignty, spiritual warfare, and interspersed throughout a faith building and edifying account of the reality of spiritual warfare and the power of prayer.
Now when an author delivers this kind of content, I am very curious as to what makes him tick as an author, especially a new one!  So I hope you enjoy having Peter as my guest as he tells us his journey to published author, what fueled his imagination for The Eden Conflict and how he developed it. 

Now let me introduce you to Peter Way! Thanks for stopping by Peter! Let's start by you telling us a little about Peter Way, the person.

Part nerd, part geek, part sportsperson, and all Christian. What a mix I am! I grew up on superheroes, sci-fi, and Bible stories. I think I have always known God and Jesus, but it wasn’t until age eleven that I gave my life to them. Unlike your average nerd, I’m not uncoordinated and have played sport since about age eight. I was twelve when I took up basketball and have played it on and off ever since. I got married in 1998 and have two beautiful daughters. Life was pretty good and pretty normal until mid-2010. The short story is that I was (mis)diagnosed with Melanoma, given twelve months to live and had chemo for twelve months. Then a mistake was found, and I was then treated for Lymphoma for six months. I was then told that I was ok, but not considered clear until 5 years have passed. I say mistake because that’s what they tell me it was, but I know it as my miracle, which I (and my friends) had prayed for. That experience added together with my marriage falling apart, changed me. In 2012, I was asked to move out and started to learn how to live again. I had been on so much pain killers that I could only sleep most of the time. I even had to learn to walk, run, jump etc all over again (I should mention that happened during the last six months of 2011). In the three and a half years since then, I have played basketball again, finished writing The Eden Conflict and self-published it and found a new love. I’ve learned to appreciate what I have and I look forward to seeing what else the Lord will bless me with.

Now let's talk about your writing.

What inspired you to become an author?

I read Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness when I was a teenager and loved it. I’ve looked for similar books and couldn’t find any. I said to a friend, back in 2000, maybe I need to write those books as there isn’t anyone else doing it. I wasn’t serious at the time but did have a play with writing anyway. By 2004, I was up to chapter 50 and after a few friends read what I had done they encouraged me to keep going.

You are a new author. How did you come to construct your novel? Authors tend to use one of the following methods:

-by extensively plotting it out (plotter),
-or as it came to you (pantser, that you write by the seat of your pants) or was it a bit of both?

At first it was pantser, it was as if I was writing it as I would read a book. That was until I got a fair way in and started to lose track of where I was. Then I went back over everything and wrote down what happened and what I wanted to happen next. It was more like a chart of every plot line. In the back of my mind, I always had a rough idea of where I was going but it wasn’t until I created the chart of plot lines that I wrote it down.

What obstacles did you encounter in writing The Eden Conflict? How did you overcome these?

The lack of info on Angels that was Biblically sound was my biggest obstacle. I did a lot of research and most of what I found I couldn’t use because it wasn’t backed up in the Bible or was the exact opposite of what the Bible said. I just kept researching and researching until I found info that helped. And even then, I ended up writing what I thought was right, without having any real evidence to back it up. Every time I did write something I wasn’t sure about, I checked it with someone who was proficient in that field. I asked my Doctor questions, I asked a friend who is a scientist and I checked Theology with my minister friends.

How has writing and being an author impacted your relationship with Jesus Christ and vice versa?

It has strengthened it. Writing something that, at times, is so intimate with His nature, had me overwhelmed. I would get so excited at times that I was physically shaking and so emotional at others that tears were running down my face. When that happened, I had to stop and relax a bit before I could continue.

Do you have a favourite genre that you read?

Action/Adventure mostly. But I do have a lot of Fantasy novels too.

What have you learned about becoming an author?

That it’s not easy. It’s not just about writing a book. You write, you re-write, you edit, you send it out to be edited, you then re-write what the editor suggests and then get it edited again, if you’re lucky you then try to get it published but usually your back to re-writing again, eventually you send off submissions to publishers who all knock you back (for me that was mainly because it was so big), then you look into self-publishing and realise you can’t afford it, then you look at print on demand and once you find someone you think you can trust, you try it. Then you have to market it and if you spend all your time on that, you have no time to write the next book. Eventually, if you really are an author at heart, you decide it was all worth it and start to write your next book.

You write well. Have you always found this to be an easy feat? What have you done to improve your writing? Writing course, NaNoWriMo?

Thank you, I appreciate that. Especially since I haven’t done any writing courses. I have read a lot of books. I think that has helped my writing style, I know what I like to read and try to write like that. I also do quite a bit of re-writing to make sure that I’m happy with what I have written.

What do you do when you are not writing?

When I first started out, in 2000, I was working in IT and Telecommunications. Then I chose to be a home dad in 2006 and write in my spare time, which wasn’t much. These days, I’m trying to be a full-time author so I’m either playing PlayStation games, reading or doing housework when I’m not writing.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?

I read an interview with Clive Cussler, in which he said something like if you want to write in a certain style, read a lot of books in that style.

Do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?

If you wake up in the morning and all you can think about is writing, then you are a writer. Keep trying, don’t give up. If you have a passion for it, nothing anyone says will stop you from doing it.

Did any specific author(s) motivate you to begin writing?

More like the opposite. As I said earlier, it was a lack of authors in this style that motivated me to start writing. Authors like Frank Peretti, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy, Anne Rice, James Patterson, JK Rowling and quite a few more, have influenced me and my writing style.

Thanks for discussing your writing and your experiece in publishing your novel. Now let's talk about The Eden Conflict.

How long did it take you to write The Eden Conflict?

Eight years overall, but I wasn’t actually serious at first. The first year I only wrote one chapter.

Did you expect that you would get 5-star reviews so far? I know there are 2 on Amazon, even if they are the only ones. That is a good start!

Thanks. No, I didn’t expect it. I remember when I saw the first one, I have no idea who he is or where he lives, but I was totally over the moon!

It is quite a feat for a debut author to achieve a full-length novel of between 300-400 pages, but yours comes in at an impressive 532 pages! Was this your original intention? If not, how did this happen?

I know what I like to read, and most of those books are 200,000 words plus. So my aim was to get close to that if I could and I hit the 190,000-word mark on the first draft – which was about 510 pages. After editing, trying to separate it into three books and then combining it back into one, and editing again, it added another twenty pages.

Not having any previous experience as an author, did you have any help/mentoring in the development of the plot, characters, flow, biblical depiction of angel/demons, or the development of the supernatural, and spiritual aspects of TEC?

Not really. Most of that just came from me and my beliefs or interpretations from Bible passages, or research I did. However, I did have friends reading it from time to time and they did give me help on some aspects, mostly editing. One friend did help more than the others. He acted as my sounding board and critique at times.

You have stated that you based TEC on Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness (TPD). What was it about that book that inspired you to create your novel in a similar fashion?

The whole depiction of angels and demons being around us all the time. His descriptions of how the humans were influenced, by both angels and demons has always stuck with me. I see our world being very similar and I wanted to show that through my words so that others could experience this world in that way.

When I read Peretti's TPD and its sequel Piercing The Darkness, I remember reading an article by a Christian apologist (cannot remember his name, it was 20 yrs ago!) who repudiated Peretti's doctrine in the novels that the more prayer received by God, the more permission given to the angels by God to deal with demonic forces and assist their human charges. Peretti's response was that he developed the angels like this to encourage Christians to be more active in prayer concerning their lives as spiritual warfare is real and we have the victory in Christ. What are your thoughts on this?

I agree with Peretti, but I don’t think that the prayers were always specific enough, or that the angels always acted on behalf of God. I researched a lot about this and tried to make sure that I followed Biblical doctrine. Angels don’t act without God’s approval or do anything that is not Christ centered. But the Bible does say in Hebrews chapter 1 that the angels will obey the ‘heirs of salvation’, being us according to Galatians 3:29. We have to make sure that what we say is Christ-centered or the angels will not listen, idle and wicked talk will ‘turn them off’. So it’s actually more than spiritual warfare, it is everyday life. According to Joshua 1:8, our words should always reflect ‘the book of the law’. The way that I have used prayer and the actions of the angels is how I think we should be doing it every day ourselves.

I stated in my review that I found the appendices very helpful and encouraged readers to read these after they finish TEC. Did you include these just for the readers knowledge or was it for the reason I stated in my review, that due to some controversial topics covered in the novel and differing Christian opinions on these, that it was to quell any criticism of the way you handled these issues?

The later mostly and partly to impart knowledge. As you said, even in Christian circles there are differing opinions on these topics and they can be considered controversial. I wanted to make sure that the readers understood where I stand, what I used and why. The map was something I drew more for myself and thought that others may appreciate it. In a lot of ways, this information became my fall back guide as I wrote. If I wasn’t sure on something, I referred back to this information to see if I was contradicting myself or going against Biblical doctrine. In some cases, it was information that I found really interesting and couldn’t put in the story as such, so I put it here instead.

How long did it take you to complete the research needed for this novel? Any difficulties you experienced conducting this? It has definitely paid off and you have used this research well.

Thanks. I didn’t keep track of my research hours. In most cases, I performed the research as I needed it. If I struck difficulties finding something, I either asked for help or dropped it and moved to a different approach or idea. That didn’t happen too often but when it did the new idea usually blossomed.

Have you experienced any criticism regarding how or why you have created the spiritual warfare issues, the angelic and demonic hierarchy structure, moving the Tree of Life, having a fruit from this Tree being stolen, portals used to access the physical and supernatural worlds, demons dissolving into a mist before being sucked into the vortex and taken to the Abyss, or any other issue? I ask this as novels or this genre tend to bring out many critical attitudes and opinions of Christians (sadly!)?

I can honestly say I’ve been expecting some but haven’t received it yet. I’ve had a few non-Christian friends read it, those that bothered to comment just said it was an interesting story.

What are your thoughts on what I mentioned in my review about some Christian readers resenting full prayer being included in a novel or explicit details of witnessing to a non-believing character? I applaud you for portraying both these issues as you have. It might just be the final encouragement for a non-believer who is searching for God and this convincing them to accept Christ. I guess those who do not like these inclusions need to realise that Christian fiction is not just about the Christian reader.

I’m surprised to hear it really. For a book like this, I think the full prayers are necessary. As for the witnessing/conversion, I was once told that, years ago, the prerequisite for a novel to be called Christian, was that a conversion had to be in it. That was one of the reasons I added it, but mostly for the hopes that it would help non-Christians see a logical approach using the passages I did, and maybe they would pray the prayer too. I actually prayed over those sections, asking the Spirit to guide me in what I said and how I said it.

A lot of authors struggle to write realistic fight scenes. You have written your fight/sword scenes very convincingly. Did you have some instruction on how to do this, or were able to write them as you saw it in your imagination?

I wrote them how I saw them in my mind. As if it was a movie being played out in my head.

Are any of the plot structures concerning the corrupt business deals relating to the resorts based on any real life situations?

No, they’re not. I tried to think of things that could be realistic and went with that. I must admit that I struggled with a lot of the demonic scenes and the bad guys in general because I don’t think that way.

In TEC, who is your favourite angelic character? Human character? Who was the hardest to develop?

Angelic – Itzal. He was fun and he’s an angel on the outside, he’s not really accepted by the other angels because he embraces too many human traits. But this actually makes him the best of the angels to me. I really like Daniel too.
Human – That’s kind of hard to pick. Glen, as he is partly based on myself and his relationship with Max is very familiar to me. Max as he is the friend we all want to have. And Jack… he is a complex and unfolding character that I am afraid I’m going to have to torment a bit in future books and that is going to be fun to write.
The hardest to develop… Cain. The bad guy of the piece. As I mentioned previously, I struggle with the evil characters and this demon is evil on top of evil. He’s ambitious and cunning and well, I don’t even fully know where I’m going with him. But he will be around for a long time so I’m going to have to work that out LOL!

Any of the human characters based on yourself? I get an impression that Glen or Jack could be!

Both of them are in some aspects. Glen has more of my Christian traits and ethics while Jack is kind of who I want to be. A little more exciting and adventurous than I am in real life.

Without giving away any spoilers, what can we expect from the next book in the God's Warrior's series?

The main plot is about Phillip, the kidnapped minister and how the different characters are searching for him. The trouble is I don’t want to slow the action down at all so you can expect some twists and turns to occur which will keep everyone busy. Oh, and even though it is a stand-alone novel (each one in the series will be) there are other ties from book one that need to be tied up… like the stolen fruit. I will also be starting the plot for book three and setting up other things that may well carry on over the whole series.

Other than the God’s Warrior Series, is there a new project in the works?

Yes. Many. I get ideas all the time and some of them will be incorporated into the God’s Warriors Series and others just can’t be. At the moment, I am around twenty chapters into book two but have put that on hold. Just for something different, I’m converting a friend’s screenplay called Engolfed into a novel. I edited it for him and asked if I could do this and he said yes. It’s about golf so it’s completely different. Apart from that, I have a Vampire story (who doesn’t) that I started that takes a whole new approach and is Christian related, a superhero story, a spy story and something that might be scary. Most of them are mainly just concepts, so only a chapter or two has been done. They may turn into something more one day but for now they’re just fun. The other main project I have started and will continue is rather ambitious. I want to re-write the Bible as a fiction story. Tell the stories more as the characters who are in them. I have started with Zacharias and the birth of John the Baptist, the New Testament basically. I read a similar undertaking a few years ago by Walter Wangerin called The Book of God and while it was good, there was a lot left out too. You can read a sample from that on my website and blog site in ‘Other Writing’, it’s called The Incarnate Deity.

What take home message do you want readers of the TEC to embrace?

Non-Christians – God is real, Jesus died and rose again… the whole Christian message.
Christians – Spiritual Warfare is happening and you are a part of it whether you know it or not.

Anything else you would like to say about TEC, God Warriors series or being an author?

It’s a series, not a trilogy, although each book will have links to the next it doesn’t mean that three books will be one storyline. I love writing and loved writing TEC. I will be back on book two after the current project is complete. If you want to be kept up to date with that, then follow my blog or Facebook page.

Where can readers find you?

Facebook God's Warriors

Twitter @PeterWay5

Google+ Peter Way

Amazon Author Page Peter Way

Any closing comments?

Thanks for this opportunity, I’m so very happy that you enjoyed the book and are looking forward to book 2. I’m excited now to finish my current project, Engolfed, and get back to writing book 2.
God Bless

Well, Peter, I really enjoyed your interview and I thank you for giving us a comprehensive insight how you created The Eden Conflict. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and I look forward to your future works, especially book 2 of God's Warriors. You are one author to follow and I pray more readers will agree with me as well. One quality I appreciate about your as an author is your passion for writing and to not write anything that is not backed up by the Bible. That is definitely honouring God and not man and this is what Christian fiction should be about. Thank you for achieving this standard.